Demonstrators attend the Free Internet rally in response to a bill making its way through parliament calling for all internet traffic to be routed through servers in Russia — making VPNs (virtual private networks) ineffective, in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 10, 2019.Several thousand people have rallied in Moscow to protest legislation that they fear could lead to widespread censorship of the internet for Russian users. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

MOSCOW (AP) — Several thousand people have rallied in Moscow to protest legislation they fear could lead to widespread internet censorship for Russian users.

The sanctioned rally on Sunday was organized in response to a bill in parliament that would route all internet traffic through servers in Russia, making virtual private networks (VPNs) ineffective.

The proposed measure also would create a division in Russia's agency that regulates communications to oversee traffic control and routing.

The bill has passed the first of three readings in the Duma, the lower house of parliament.

Advocates say the bill is intended to address concerns that Russia could be cut off if the United States applies a new cybersecurity doctrine in an offensive maneuver.

Critics say the bill would create an internet firewall similar to China's.

Police officers detain a demonstrator after the Free Internet rally in response to a bill making its way through parliament calling for all internet traffic to be routed through servers in Russia — making VPNs (virtual private networks) ineffective, in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 10, 2019.Several thousand people have rallied in Moscow to protest legislation that they fear could lead to widespread censorship of the internet for Russian users. (AP Photo)
A man holds symbolic fingers with a word reading
A man shots holding a poster reads
Police officers detain a demonstrator after the Free Internet rally in response to a bill making its way through parliament calling for all internet traffic to be routed through servers in Russia — making VPNs (virtual private networks) ineffective, in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 10, 2019.Several thousand people have rallied in Moscow to protest legislation that they fear could lead to widespread censorship of the internet for Russian users. (AP Photo)
Police officers walk to block demonstrators after the Free Internet rally in response to a bill making its way through parliament calling for all internet traffic to be routed through servers in Russia — making VPNs (virtual private networks) ineffective, in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 10, 2019.Several thousand people have rallied in Moscow to protest legislation that they fear could lead to widespread censorship of the internet for Russian users. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Demonstrators hold a portrait of messaging app Telegram co-founder Pavel Durov as an icon, during the Free Internet rally in response to a bill making its way through parliament calling for all internet traffic to be routed through servers in Russia — making VPNs (virtual private networks) ineffective, in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 10, 2019.Several thousand people have rallied in Moscow to protest legislation that they fear could lead to widespread censorship of the internet for Russian users. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Demonstrators shout during the Free Internet rally in response to a bill making its way through parliament calling for all internet traffic to be routed through servers in Russia — making VPNs (virtual private networks) ineffective, in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 10, 2019.Several thousand people have rallied in Moscow to protest legislation that they fear could lead to widespread censorship of the internet for Russian users. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Demonstrators with a poster on the right reads
Police officers detain a demonstrator after the Free Internet rally in response to a bill making its way through parliament calling for all internet traffic to be routed through servers in Russia — making VPNs (virtual private networks) ineffective, in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 10, 2019.Several thousand people have rallied in Moscow to protest legislation that they fear could lead to widespread censorship of the internet for Russian users. (AP Photo)
Police officers detain a demonstrator after the Free Internet rally in response to a bill making its way through parliament calling for all internet traffic to be routed through servers in Russia — making VPNs (virtual private networks) ineffective, in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 10, 2019.Several thousand people have rallied in Moscow to protest legislation that they fear could lead to widespread censorship of the internet for Russian users. (AP Photo)